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Is there any difference between "wanted" vs "wanted to" for such situation?

  • A: I'm not going to eat a lot this weekend!
  • B: Couldn't do it even if you wanted to, I bet!

  • A: I'm not going to eat a lot this weekend!
  • B: Couldn't do it even if you wanted, I bet!

I feel the first one sounds more natural, talking as an English learner, but I don't know why.

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    As you are an English learner, you should be posting to SE English Language Learners.
    – David
    Nov 23, 2018 at 23:03
  • Further to @David's comment, the link is English Language Learners. An excellent site for fluent speakers as well! :-) Nov 24, 2018 at 2:10
  • Great! Didn't know about it. Nov 24, 2018 at 10:32

3 Answers 3

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In your question, 'to' is not a preposition - it is part of the infinitive 'to eat'. You couldn't even if you wanted to eat, I bet. Because your example is in response to someone else's statement, 'eat' is already implied, so it is dropped and we are left with just 'to'. Compare this omission to your omission of 'you': You couldn't becomes Couldn't because 'you' is implied.
To answer the question, there are multiple correct options. wanted without 'to' is ok, but it's less specific. Both wanted and wanted to are correct, as are wanted to eat and wanted to eat a lot, but although the latter two are acceptable, they are tautology, so you wouldn't find them in a conversation.

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  • I wouldn't guess the implied verb is 'to eat.' It may as easily be 'to avoid eating a lot'. To reflect the ambiguity, the answer might use 'to do' instead: 'you couldn't do it even if you wanted to do it.'
    – Kay V
    Nov 27, 2018 at 15:24
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No difference in meaning, and one is no more common than the other. If you really wanted to dig through minutiae though, you might argue the 'to' ending the first sentence is extraneous. Forget this distinction as it's profoundly useless.

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    What? There's no difference between saying "He wanted a new bike for Christmas" and "He wanted to a new bike for Christmas"?
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 23, 2018 at 21:25
  • @HotLicks have ever had a dream where you wanted to ?? youtube.com/watch?v=G7RgN9ijwE4 :D
    – Carly
    Nov 23, 2018 at 21:28
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    @HotLicks There’s little to no difference in meaning/intent between the OP’s examples.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 23, 2018 at 23:17
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    I disagree that the “even if he wanted to” version is less grammatically sound than the version without the word to.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 23, 2018 at 23:19
  • @Chappo etc. - eh, sure - grammatically incorrect overstates the point. How do you feel about 'extraneous'? As such, would you agree most editors would strike it unless it had a stylistic justification? Answer modified.
    – Kay V
    Nov 24, 2018 at 22:37
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The first example is grammatically correct because B-sentence is elliptical, and it can be reconstructed as 'Couldn't do it even if you you wanted to EAT, I bet!' In the second example B-sentence is reconstructed as 'Couldn't do it even if you you wanted EAT, I bet!', which is grammatically wrong.

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